Starlink, part of Elon Musk's SpaceX company, has registered its business in India and is preparing to apply for licenses from the local government, according to a top official.
"Pleased to share that SpaceX now has a 100% owned subsidiary in India," Sanjay Bhargava, India director for Starlink, said in a LinkedIn post Monday. Starlink's local India unit is registered with the name Starlink Satellite Communications Private Limited.
A local unit is required for an internet company to offer its services in India, where Starlink -- assuming that it gets the license -- plans to offer 200,000 active terminals in over 160,000 districts by December 2022, the company representatives said. That's an ambitious goal for the company, which as of August had shipped 100,000 user terminals in 14 countries.
Bhargava, a former PayPal executive, started in the new role at the beginning of October. The company has hired a number of key executives in India in recent months, including Parnil Urdhwareshe, who previously oversaw AMD’s policy efforts in India, as its Market Access director for the local business.
A SpaceX spokesperson didn’t respond to a query in September about the appointment of Bhargava, but the company’s chief executive Elon Musk confirmed the development over the weekend on Twitter.
Starlink, one of the leading companies that is launching small satellites to build a low-Earth orbiting network to provide low-latency broadband internet services, is aiming to serve rural communities in India, said Musk in a tweet, adding “Sanjay deserves a lot of credit for making X/PayPal succeed.”
In another LinkedIn post, Bhargava said, “at Starlink, we want to serve the underserved. We hope to work with fellow broadband providers, solution providers in the aspirational districts to improve and save lives.” The company said over the weekend that it's working with Niti Aayog, a powerful Indian think tank, to identify 12 districts in the country for Starlink's initial deployment.
Even as more than half a billion people are online in India, just as many are still offline. According to industry estimates, hundreds of millions of Indians living in rural areas don't have access to any broadband network.
“The government approval process is complex. So far there is no application pending with the government, so the ball is in our court to apply for consideration, which we are working on," he said.
"Our approach will be to get pilot approval quickly if Pan India approval will take long. We are optimistic that we will get approval for a pilot program or Pan India approval in the next few months,” said Bhargava last month, adding that if it fails to get the government approval, the actual number of terminals it may end up deploying by the end of next year will be “much lower than that or even zero.”